Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

There's groveling and then there is groveling and I think there needed more groveling in this story.

The Duke of St. Cyres (pronounced like Sincere) has been saddled with a title and a truckload of debts he could have done without. He had always been a rake and a never do good, and he liked it! Now all of a sudden has responsibilities he cannot afford. His only recourse is to marry an heiress.

Prudence Bonsworth is an heiress. Well... she was a seamstress but a fortune falls into her lap when the father she never knew leaves her an immense inheritance. Fortune hunters crawl out of the wood work but her innocence blinds her to the motive behind all her new admirers.

I must say that there has been very few heroes that I found complete slime buckets until St. Cyres. The first sign of vile behavior was when he rescues a maid from the unwanted attentions of another peer (in the presence of Prudence) and then later we find he has taken said girl to bed himself! It was a "Holy Crap" moment. Then we see him deny knowledge of Prudence's fortune while he woos her so she will not dump him into the role of a fortune hunter. He manipulates her into an engagement like a Pro! If I was not so disgusted with his actions I would admire his gall!

Okay, there is some strong reasons why St. Cyres has become the man he is, but still...

I really like the way Guhrke shows us how raw the Duke's wounds are and even though there is not many of those moments of complete happiness, Prudence brings him the sense of peace he needs and he falls in love with her. I love that even though Pru was completely blinded by Rhys deception, when she did discover it, she didn't lay down and fall apart, she took hold of her life and moved on.
I wish there had been more groveling at the end, as I mentioned earlier in my post, but I found the book on a whole a very good read and Rhys did redeem himself there at the end.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

His Favorite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren

Best of the series and still with some flaws. What I liked about this one is that there were no villains waiting to pounce or any mysteries to unveil but just a straight up love story of a Duke that is too stupid to love but not too stupid to realize when groveling in needed!! LOL!

The story starts by introducing us to the heroine which comes from a very unlikely background. Gabriella is the illegitimate daughter of Rafe Pendragon's half brother Burton St. George, Viscount Middleton who was the villain in Rafe and Julianna's story. She has sneaked into Rafe's townhouse in order to kill him for the 'murder' of her father but threatens Tony instead.

Tony disarms her, steals a passionate kiss and proceeds to tell her that Middleton was a vile and dangerous man. Rafe shows up and after confirming Tony's tale offers to shelter Gabriella and make her part of his family. She refuses and flees, but after talking with a close friend seeks to reaquaint herself with Rafe and Julianna.

Now Anthony Black has decided to never marry and is content in leaving his title to his cousin but his attraction to Gabriella might put a hitch to his bachelor days. He realizes that there is a very strong attraction to Gabby and tries to put as much distance as he can between himself and Rafe's niece but time after time he finds himself sharing passionate kisses with her, or if not, standing up with her so society will not snub her due to her illegitimate status. It is on one of these occasions where they are separated from their party on an outing that they are discovered alone and Tony finds himself in a position where he must marry if he is to salvage Gabriella's reputation.

Here comes the mid-story 'event'. This series all have been following a formula where there is a period of time where the couple gets to know each other and then we move into the part where the 'big misunderstanding' takes place. After Tony and Gabriella wed, they are living blissfully until Gabby overhears a remark Tony makes to Ethan. She is all upset and when they go back to London, drops Tony as a hot potato. Well, Tony is not letting that happen and convinces her to allow him to partake of her favors so she can provide him with an heir. This is the second part of the story where Tony discovers he loves his wife and has to make amends.

I love the desperation that is portrayed by Tony when he discovers his feelings and Gabriella just doesn't believe him. I think the story itself was a bit out there since the period was not one of acceptance in society of bastard children. This story line was extending it a bit but in general I found this one the best of the three book of the series.

Grade: B

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Accidental Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren

Hmm... This one was difficult. Not so much that it was difficult to get through, although the first half was a bit on the boring side, but it was a book that by the time you finished you were unsure on your feelings toward it.

Ethan Andarton, the Marquis of Vessey has a brief encounter with a young woman that is disguised as a boy on his way back to London. The encounter sticks with him for weeks until he sees his mystery woman again at a ball.

Lily Bainbridge faked her own death to avoid an arranged marriage that would profit no one except her evil stepfather. Her encounter with Ethan leaves her shaking but she is a sensible girl and soon forces herself to forget the passionate embrace and caresses Ethan gave her in his carriage. She moves into society as a widow, after claiming an inheritance left to her by her grandfather (I didn't get how she didn't claim it before and how easily it was given to her with out any proof of her marriage).

During Ethan's pursuit of Lily the book just dragged on FOREVER!!! He woos her by showing her how to drive a curricle. He would take her driving every day over the course of a few weeks. When Lily finally gives into Ethan and becomes his mistress things start moving along. I loved that they fell into a sort of domesticity that was comfortable. I could see how they fell in love over time, it was not all about the passion they shared. At the same time I just could not see how it was acceptable for Lily to take on an affair so openly and not suffer ruination, even as a widow.

Anyway, there was a misunderstanding at the end that separates our lovers for about a week, villains show up at her door, Vessey saves the day and all live happily ever after.

A bit too neat for me.

Grade: C-

My Fair Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren

The first in Warren's new series about three friends that find love with the women that have become their mistresses.

Lady Julianna Hawethorne is a widow that was forced to marry young to secure her family's financial future and now finds herself trying to save her family once again. Her younger brother has fallen with a bad crowd and has gambled their fortune away.

Rafe Pendragon holds her family's future in his hands since it's to the financier that her brother owes his debt. Julianna approaches Rafe to extend them more time to pay back the loan but he is man of business and is unmovable.

Rafe offers her a bargain he really never thought she would accept, be his mistress for 6 mo to cover the debt owed. But Julianna is no stranger to sacrifice for family and with a young sister at home about to debut in society, she agrees. What she didn't expect was that she would find that being Rafe Pendragon's mistress would be no sacrifice at all!

I found that this story was a bit similar to the previous story I had read The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. Pendragon has earned his riches over the years but he had to fall to the bottom of the barrel before he could pull himself out. The illegitimate son of a Viscount, he knew he was loved but lived ostracized by society. When his father died, his half brother Burton St. George, Viscount Middleton, threw his mother out on the streets causing her death. That was not all he did, though... when St. George and his cronies beat and raped his betrothed they painted a bulls eye on their back and Rafe is determined to see each of them fall, paying for pushing his young love to suicide.

When Rafe finds himself falling in love with Julianna he fears that St. George will find out and harm her, so he pushes her away. This is were the second part of the book picks up, the more annoying part. Although the premise of the story is similar to Hoyt's Serpent Prince, that book became dark and torturous in the second half while this one was just full of lies, that turned into misunderstandings, which in turn lead to frustration for us.

After Rafe breaks things off, Julianna finds herself with child when previously thought barren and when Rafe finds out he takes her as wife but never tells Julianna why he had pushed her away, or that he cares for her or that he has an enemy, he just bulldozes her to do his bidding and expects her to do as he says. I realize this book suffered a lot due to the comparison with Hoyt's book so I needed to step back and look at it differently. I enjoyed the book and the storytelling had enough twists and turns to keep me interested until I turned the last page.

Grade: B-

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

I reviewed the first book in this series The Raven Prince and found Hoyt's work enjoyable but then I read her next story in the series (The Leopard Prince), which I did not review, and was very disappointed. So when this one came out I didn't rush out to purchase it but waited a bit until I was ready to give Hoyt another try. I was very happy I did since this one, IMO, was the best of the three.

Miss Lucy Craddock-Hayes finds Simon, Viscount Iddesleigh beaten, stabbed and stripped bare on the side of the road. At first she believes him dead but quickly realizes he is still alive and takes him home where she can nurse him back to health. Lucy's father who is a retired naval officer, is not at all pleased since he sees that this stranger will disrupt the quiet country life Lucy has always known. He was right.

The first part of the book is where we see this couple fall in love. Simon awakes to find himself in the presence of pure innocence and although he feels unworthy, he is drawn to the woman that he calls his "angel". His wit and charm makes Lucy realize that she is not willing to settle for less than true love but Simon is not the carefree man he allows Lucy to see, but a very tormented man who's commitment to revenge has been eroding his soul for several years. When he brings danger to Lucy's doorstep he realizes that he must leave the fantasy behind and return to his living hell.

Simon is determined to avenge his brother Ethan's death. He has campaigned to challenge every man he believes had a hand in his brother's murder and is still short two... maybe three?
This second part in the book is very dark and difficult to read but so well pieced together it made sense. I loved when Simon goes back to Lucy and asks her to be his. You see he is on borrowed time and he needs her to save him so desperately.

Beautiful book to the very last scene! Kudos to Hoyt who brings this series to a close with a bang!!

Grade: A-

Mirror Image by Sandra Brown

As those that read this blog know, I'm a fan of Sandra Brown. I don't think I butter up her work and blindly proclaim that her pen cannot fail. On the contrary, I think her earlier work in romance was a disaster, so I had put off reading this one for the longest time. I eventually found it in Audiobook format and scooped it up (let's face it, on a long commute, anything is better than the early morning radio shows!). I was happily surprised that I really enjoyed this.

The story starts off on a plane crash and among the few survivors is Carole & Mandy Rutledge, wife and daughter to senatorial candidate Tate Rutledge. Mandy just has a few scrapes and bruises but Carole has been severely injured. Her face needs to be reconstructed and she is unable to communicate because her vocal cords have been damaged by smoke.

The Rutledge family is not what everyone on the outside sees, there is bitter disharmony and the marriage between Tate & Carole has been on it's last leg for a while. Yet Tate puts that aside and is a rock for Carole, hiding nothing yet supporting her in, what promises to be a long recovery.

What no one realizes is that the woman lying with her face bandaged is not Carole Rutledge but Avery Daniels, a journalist with a failing career that just happen to have been sitting next to Mandy & Carole on the flight.

During the first night in the hospital Avery overhears an assassination plan that Carole had been involved with and realizes that someone wants Tate dead. By the time she is able to speak, her face has been reconstructed in the image of Carole and she has convinced herself that she is the only thing that stands between Tate and Death. She has fallen in love with Tate and Mandy and decides to continue playing Carole until she can discover who wants him dead as well as write the expose that will put her career back on the map. What she doesn't know is that the walking in Carole's shoes will not be as easy as it appears because Carole was a really piece of work!

As always the suspense in the book really kept you glued. It was so riveting that, since I had a hard copy of the book, I would continue reading the book after I got out of the car! Midway into the book I had a good idea who was the bad guy but I would have NEVER guess who was the Mastermind behind the whole plot. Typical Brown who takes us on a voyage that leads us to the unexpected!

Bad points about the book? Avery was a bit flippy. She would act and not think things through. She even says so in the story. She backed herself into a corner where she had to carry all of Carole's sins (and she had a truckload!) when she could have been upfront with Tate when she realized that he was different with her and might have given their relationship a chance. If you can put up with Avery's superficialness (is that a word?), you will absolutely LOVE this one!

Grade: B
Format: Audiobook

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Anthology - Stroke of Midnight

Continuing on my last ditch efforts of getting these Kenyon stories read as well as clearing some of those anthologies in my TBR pile, I picked up the next anthology from the series. The best of the bunch was the Were-Hunter story but the book on a whole was not terrible.

Winter Born - Sherrilyn Kenyon: (B) This was the story of Dante and Pandora whom also show up in Wren's story in Unleash the Night. I loved this story but there was not such a shock factor associated with it like V'aiden's story. What I loved in this one is that it takes place in a Con. Dragon*Con to be precise and Simi is there with her Akri! I love that Dante is so much of a gentleman and yet a strong leader for his pack! Pandora was lucky like hell to have ended up mated to the Were and I was very happy to see her realize it.

Born of the Night- Amanda Ashley: (B-) This was a bit on the dark side but in my experience that is not unusual in an Ashley tale. The Reyes family was cursed many years ago and are now destined to be werewolves. The Reyes and The Montiori family have a fierce family feud where Lord Montiori tricked Reyes' father into turning into a wolf and then killed him. He now wears his pelt as a prize. Lord Reyes kidnapped Shanarra to exact revenge for his father's death but Montiori could care less. It irks his pride that Reyes has taken his daughter but it's not until Reyes decides to wed her that Montiori comes charging in to fight him. I found it disconcerting that Shanarra really didn't accept Reyes as a wolf. In the end she loved him but I didn't get the impression she was accepting him completely until the curse was lifted.

Make it Last Forever - L.A. Banks:(C) I find it funny that this story was the one I found the most difficult to read and yet I acknowledge the writing itself was superb. I just had a problem with it dragging so much. If you are familiar with L.A. Banks Vampire Huntress series you will most likely love this one. It's the story of one of her guardians, Raider and how he discovers his destiny in the arms of a vampire.

Red Moon Rising - Lori Handeland:(B-) This last tale was more like a crazy satire of all things paranormal. Maya is a writer that moved to Arizona for some quiet time that would allow her to meet her deadlines but she finds herself being stalked by a Skinwalker (this is a side story to a series Handeland writes). Clayton is stalking the Skinwalker and is determined to keep Maya safe, but falls in lust with the stalking victim. The story is told in first person and Maya is shown to be very witty and sarcastic which makes this a very light piece. Nice way to round out the Anthology even if it really won't motivate me to look up the rest of the series.

Grade: B-

An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley

On with the Company of Rouges and their misadventures! This is the story of Lucien, the biggest catch of the group since he will eventually become the Duke of Belcraven.

Lucien, Marquess of Arden is told by his father that he is actually not his son and therefore is not heir to the Dukedom. To keep the dukedom in the Deveraux line the Duke insists that Lucien marry the Duke's illegitimate daughter Beth Armitage.

Beth is a teacher at a lady's finishing school and has no idea of her heritage. She would have liked to refuse the Duke's 'suggestion' that she marry his son but he has threatened the school and it's Mistress so she reluctantly agrees, but before she takes her vows she is determined to let the Marquess know of her reluctance.

Lucien has always been a good son and a responsible peer so it's sad that he is actually so alone in this book. Beth who is put in the situation with him shows no mercy and makes a difficult task worse by edging him on and giving him reason after reason to doubt her.
She keeps opening her mouth and screwing up her chances to have a decent relationship with Lucien who shows all signs of being a gentlemen and ready to do his duty by her (except for a scene at the end when his temper gets the better of him). Beth just appears to want to bite off her nose to spite her face!

I found that the story didn't really have a high point or otherwise a low. There was a part of danger where Lord Deveril makes an appearance and threatens Beth and Blanche (Lucien's ex-Mistress) but even that was more of a blimp on the radar, not something I would call a climax.

Regardless, the book was entertaining and I would say more satisfying than the first since you really liked Lucien alot and you see how someone can fall in love with him. It was also lovely to revist the Rouges again. These character are ones you just need to get to know and it's a pleasure to see them find their happiness.

Grade: C
Format: Audiobook

Saturday, January 05, 2008

An Arranged Marriage by Jo Beverley

The book itself was one that was enthralling but mostly it was because it was a bit unconventional.

The heroine is raped by the hero's brother within the first 30 pages of the book. It seems Lord Stainbridge prefers 'other' entertainments and when presented with a young man at a party for 'his pleasure' he is forced into a situation where he must prove his manliness and he rapes Eleanor. He is not aware that she has not given her consent, in fact he thinks she is a whore, but when he discovers his error the next day he tells her that who raped her was his twin brother Nicholas Delaney and that he will be forced to marry her.

To Nicky he confesses everything and to save his twin's skin, Nicholas agrees to marry Eleanor.

Now Eleanor has her reasons to marry anyone other than the man whom her brother has chosen for her, but she agrees too easily to marry her rapist and then after the wedding she discovers that he had not raped her at all but the kind brother who had offered her shelter was the actual rapist and Nick is just the man 'forced' to marry her. She then proceeds to consummate the marriage with the brother of her rapist, so now both brothers have tasted her favors.

Yeah, so as you can see the book was a bit peculiar and I kept telling myself, no way did she just do that, no way did she just agree to that, no way did she just put up with that! Even when Eleanor was upset and took steps to become someone to stand on her own she screwed up and Nick would have to clean up after her. Everyone thought her soo brave in the book (she is referenced in that manner many times) but I just could not see it. Nicholas needed to be horse whipped but with Eleanor as his wife... well, you can guess.

I gave the book a C- but it was because with all I have already said, it was a book I seemed not able to let go. It had me seeking any moment to pull out the book and read another page. It's like watching a train wreck that you cannot turn away from. I am actually looking forward to reading the other Rouge's story... sick isn't it?

Grade: C-

Friday, January 04, 2008

Recap for 2007

So 2007 was a year of adaptation. I was learning alot at my job since I was required to be licensed by summer. I took my Series 6 license in March and passed my 63 license in May. I also started to work with Pensions in October... so looking back on 2007, my career definitely moved forward.

My daughter spent her first full summer in Texas while doing her Marketing internship. It had been a long time since we spent the full summer together and it was very nice. Now she is back to school completing her junior year and getting ready to go to Japan this summer.

Looking back I can see that Summer was definietly the most challenging time for my reading but I still kept a good pace and I made a dent on my TBR pile. Let's take a closer look....

I read a total of 128 books this year, Higher than last but lower than the previous 3 years. I think this was a good pace for me and I feel I have found my rhythm.

I discovered 29 new authors! My favorite first reads were from Authors suggested on my Reading group through the Author of the Month program. Jo Goodman wow'd me with A Season to be Sinful and Diane Perkins was a jewel in The Improper Wife. I also discovered Jonathan Stroud's YA series called Bartimaeus and although I really loved his work, the ending of the series stopped me from naming him among my great discoveries for 2007.

This was not a good year for series, but I did discover one that made me pickup all the books and read them within a few weeks, Gaelan Foley's Knight Miscellany. The lowest grade any of them got was a B which was Jacinda's story. I did make a dent on a few other series I had already started. Ward's Brotherhood series is still the best series I have read. They have all passed into my keeper pile and I don't foresee tiring of them. I read three more books from the Carpathian series so now I have the first four under my belt. I really hope I don't tire of them since I have all the books. They have to be read in small doses, though, not like Ward's Brotherhood or Kenyon's Dark Hunters, which I also attacked this year, reading 3 more of them as well as a few of the short stories from the anthologies.

Talking about Anthologies... I still dislike them. I didn't meet my goal of reading 1 a month. I read 6 anthologies (less than last year) and of those only two got higher than a C (Wish List and Midnight Pleasures). I have found that I don't have too many of them left in my TBR pile so I'm keeping that particular goal off of my 2008 resolutions.

Favorite Authors for 2007 were Gaelan Foley (as mentioned above) who consistently delivered on her promise for excellence. J.R. Ward gave me two new Brotherhood books and a few other stories as Jessica Bird. Lisa Scottoline, Linda Fairstein, Laura Lee Guhrke, Philip Pullman, Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon round off the favorites for this year.

Now on with some stats...
I read 6 Ebooks & 20 Audiobooks.
I reread 2 books (Navin's Meet Me at Midnight & Maxwell's The Marriage Contract)
My best reading month: December with 16 reads
Worse Reading Month: July with just 7
I read a total of 44,667 pages in the year for an average of 349 pages per book.

This year I read many more historicals than last year. 49.2% of my reading were historicals, 36.7% were Regency era. I read 30.5% Contemporaries and 19.5% Alt. Reality/Fut/Fantasy.

The majority of my readings came from publishings in the last 5 years with the most being published in 2006, closely followed by new releases in 2007.

For 2008 I would like to read just as many books as I read this year. It was a good amount without it taking away from other activities. I don't have any real goals for this year, maybe post more on my blog.. at least once a month with the AOM reading. Other than that... pickup less new books than those that I have read.

Happy Reading in 2008!!!
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